Home          About Orchids         Orchid Index          'Others' Group
Lesser Tongue-orchid
Serapias parviflora

Found for the first time in Britain in 1989 in Cornwall, Serapias parviflora puts in an appearance there from time to time and could spread to other coastal areas if the conditions are right. Lesser Tongue-orchid, also known as Small-flowered Tongue-orchid, is very small and slender and can be difficult to spot. In Cornwall this orchid is found on short grassland sloping down towards the sea. It is predominantly a Mediterranean species but there are some colonies on the Atlantic coast of France. Lesser Tongue-orchid is particularly plentiful in various parts of the Algarve, where it hugs bushes and shrubs making it even more difficult to find. This orchid also colonises scrubland and pine forests as well as coastal locations throughout its range. In Cornwall Serapias parvifloraflowers from early May to early June, but flowering occurs earlier in the Mediterranean. It has been suggested that the plants in Britain were deliberately introduced, but as they are in a location far from well-trodden paths they could equally have occurred naturally.

Distribution Map Key Features
distribution map

Records for Lesser Tongue-orchid from BSBI are shown on the map with most recent in front. (Hover the mouse over the small map to expand it.)

CLICK HERE to visit the BSBI website page for updated data and maps with separated data for individual record periods.

Plant: 10 to 40cm in height; green marked with red.
Leaves: 4 to 7 narrow keeled green basal leaves with up to 3 small, bract-like leaves higher up the stem.
Bracts: greyish-pink with distinct darker veining, held erect behind the flowers.
Flowers: 3 to 12 held on a lax inflorescence which is vaguely spiral. Sepals and petals form a tight hood over the lip and are greyish. The individual flowers are very small and can be orange or yellow. The lip is very narrow and can be surprisingly long - up to 22mm - usually projecting downwards but sometimes they are sharly folded backwards. There are two raised bosses at the base of the lip.

Image Gallery for Lesser Tongue-orchid Serapias parviflora

Pollination Taxonomy & Hybrids

The plants are self-pollinated in the bud (cleistogamous) before the flowers open.

The specific name parviflora means 'small flower'.

There are no known hybrids, subspecies or varieties.

Articles about Lesser Tongue-orchid in JHOS